32: Understanding the Exile (2)
The Prophetic Context – through Ezekiel
The Miracle of the Return from Exile
Quick Glance at Daniel
Introduction - Recap
of the magnitude of that which we call the Exile we have taken two
chapters to cover the things we believe are pertinent to understanding
it. In the previous chapter we noted the historical context, observing
the main players in the forty year run up to the Exile – the kings
and the prophet Jeremiah – and what went on at what time.
we noted, was God's ‘man on the ground' there in Jerusalem , bringing
His word into the lives of the last four kings of the southern kingdom.
Through his prophecies we saw the warnings of what was coming and
the reasons for what was coming. The reality was that no one in Jerusalem
could say they had never been warned about it.
this chapter we pick up on God's other main voice speaking into the
time, Ezekiel, God's man on the ground with the exiles in Babylon,
and then briefly a look at Daniel, God's man in the court in Babylon
throughout the period of the Exile, leading on to the restoration.
It is an amazing story so please persevere with us as we look at more
of the prophecies now spoken by Ezekiel.
The Prophetic Context - through Ezekiel
of Ezekiel's role & timeframe
Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem throughout that period of the last
five kings of the southern kingdom, Ezekiel appears
to have been carried away to Babylon as we saw previously, in 597,
but doesn't appear to have received his prophetic call until
593, (see Ezek 1:1,2) a mere 6 or 7 years
before Jerusalem was destroyed (although he carried on prophesying
until April 571 (Ezek 29:17).
he brought his words to the exiles in Babylon and presumably those
words were carried back to Jerusalem.
chapters 2 to 24 he prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem for the
apostasy of the people (which we'll consider in detail shortly).
January of 588 the Lord told him that Jerusalem
was under siege (Ezek 24:1,2).
he was instructed to prophesy against Ammon
, Moab , Edom , Philistia, Tyre, Sidon
and Egypt .
day of judgment was coming but not only on Jerusalem but also on the
he was told that Jerusalem had fallen
the chapters that follow, the prophetic word brought hope and more
words of judgment through Ezekiel (seen
in Ch.4-24 - watch for reasons)
1-4 of Ezekiel are really preparatory
and gradually they move into the prophetic through action pictures
which involve a siege (4:1-3) and a famine (4:16 and 5:16)
Chapter 5 comes
a warning that a third of the people will die by famine or plague,
a third by sword, and a third will be scattered (5:12)
Chapter 6 the
pace and intensity picks up:
word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, set your face against
the mountains of Israel ; prophesy against them and say: `O mountains
of Israel , hear the word of the Sovereign LORD. This is what the
Sovereign LORD says to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and
valleys: I am about to bring a sword against you,
and I will destroy your high places. Your altars
will be demolished and your incense altars will be smashed;
and I will slay your people in front of your idols. I will lay the
dead bodies of the Israelites in front of their idols, and I will
scatter your bones around your altars. Wherever you live, the towns
will be laid waste and the high places demolished, so that your altars
will be laid waste and devastated, your idols smashed and
ruined, your incense altars broken down, and what you have
made wiped out. Your people will fall slain among you, and you will
know that I am the LORD.
it again and see the force of what is spoken against idol worship
in the hills
warning is repeated in v.11-14, the back end of the chapter
6:8-10 ` But
I will spare some, for some of you will escape the sword when you
are scattered among the lands and nations. Then in the nations where
they have been carried captive, those who escape will remember me--how
I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned
away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols.
They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all
their detestable practices. And they will know that I am the LORD;
I did not threaten in vain to bring this calamity on them.
will be those scattered to other lands
they will KNOW what they have done and repent of it.
in Chapter 7 it
word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, this is what the Sovereign
LORD says to the land of Israel : The end! The end has come upon the
four corners of the land. The end is now upon you and I will unleash
my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and
repay you for all your detestable practices. I will
not look on you with pity or spare you; I will surely repay you for
your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will
know that I am the LORD.
it wasn't clear enough before, it is now – the end of the land!!!
so it continues on for the rest of the chapter getting worse and worse
with more and more detail!
Chapter 8 he
is shown the idolatry that is actually being carried on in the Temple
Chapter 9 he
is shown the first picture of the moving glory of the Lord
which indicates the presence of the Lord gradually moving out of the
temple and then out of the city:
Ezek 9:4 Now the
glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where
it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple.
was repeated in 10:4 as if to emphasise it if you missed it the first
goes from the cherubim in the Holy of Holies to the door of the main
in chapter 9 there is a marking out of the faithful ones in Jerusalem
and a warning that the rest will die by the sword.
Chapter 10 he
sees the same heavenly vision as chapter 1 but the glory now comes
down (there seems a coming together of the glory in the Temple and
the glory from above, v.18,19)
we see the glory move a second time:
the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple
and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched, the cherubim spread
their wings and rose from the ground…. They stopped at the entrance
to the east gate of the LORD's house, and the glory of the God of
Israel was above them.
real cherubim in the vision carry the glory from the door of the main
Temple building to the east gate of the Temple, probably in the outer
Chapter 11 he
sees 25 elders plotting evil and judgment is spoken over them and
follows (v.17-21) a word of hope for the future which we'll note below.
also see the glory move a third time:
glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the
mountain east of it
presence of God has left the city!!!! What a terrible picture for
the faithful ones of Israel.
Chapter 12 he
is to perform another prophetic picture which he will explain:
to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: This oracle concerns
the prince in Jerusalem and the whole house of Israel who are there.'
Say to them, `I am a sign to you.' "As I have done, so it will
be done to them. They will go into exile as captives.
about as clear a warning of the exile as you can get that goes beyond
Chapter 13 he
prophesies against false prophets
Chapter 14 he
rebukes the elders who come to him and calls them to repentance
15 brings a further warning
of the desolation that is coming.
Chapter 16 he
reminds them of their history and their failures and idolatry which
comes in great detail and speaks of a fresh covenant.
Chapter 17 he
presents the allegory of the eagles that spoke of Nebuchadnezzar coming
again and again and the folly of the kings refusing to learn
18 is all about principles of
personal responsibility for sin and the Lord's preference for repentance
rather than death (v.23,32)
19 is a lament for the princes
of Israel who will be carried away.
20 indicates that it is in Aug
591. The elders come to him and he confronts them again with their
past. As such it is probably the most detailed condemnation of Israel
's history and their failures and God's intent to purify them when
He brings them back
Chapter 21 he
warns that a sword is coming soon, the king of Babylon guided by God
Chapter 22 it
feels like it is coming to a climax as He speaks yet again of the
idolatry and unjust bloodshed in Jerusalem and the judgment He is
bringing on it.
23 speaks of two ‘prostitutes',
Samaria and Jerusalem in condemning their idolatry.
24 starts with the revelation
that Nebuchadnezzar has just laid siege to Jerusalem . It is 588BC.
words of hope through Ezekiel
the midst of God's words of judgment, there were words of hope (again
we itemise it for clarity):
is what the Sovereign LORD says:
I will gather you
from the nations and bring you back from the countries
where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the
land of Israel again .
"They will return
to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols.
I will give them an
undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them
their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
Then they will follow
my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
They will be my people,
and I will be their God.
But as for those whose
hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will
bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign
Lord reveals His long-term strategy – the Israel that will return
will be free of idol worship and will hold fast to the Lord.
will bring you from the nations and gather you from
the countries where you have been scattered--with a mighty hand and
an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. I will bring you into
the desert of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute
judgment upon you. As I judged your fathers in the desert of the land
of Egypt , so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will
take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into
the bond of the covenant. I will purge you of those who revolt and
rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where
they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel .
he eventually goes to restore His people to the Land, it will only
after there has been a purging so it will only be the repentant ones
who will get back
this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my
sheep and look after them. ….
I will bring them out from the nations
and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them
into their own land.”
the overall intent is clear: the Lord will return a remnant to the
Land from their exile.
I will take
you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and
bring you back into your own land .
I will sprinkle clean
water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your
impurities and from all your idols.
I will give you a
new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your
heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my
Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to
keep my laws.
You will live in the
land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be
I will save you from
all your uncleanness.
again the promise of restoration is accompanied by the revelation
of a cleaning and renewing that will go on in the hearts of His people.
restored people will be a renewed people. Those who are not renewed
will not be restored.
prophesy and say to them: `This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
my people, I am going
to open your graves and bring you up from them;
I will bring
you back to the land of Israel . Then you, my people, will
know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up
I will put
my Spirit in you
and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land
. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have
done it, declares the LORD.' "
it looked like their destiny was death in a foreign land, in reality
His intent is to a) renew them and then b) restore them to the Land.
is what the Sovereign LORD says:
I will take the Israelites
out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them
from all around and bring them back into their own
land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains
of Israel .
There will be one
king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or
be divided into two kingdoms.
They will no longer
defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of
their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding,
and I will cleanse them.
They will be my people,
and I will be their God.
`My servant David
will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd.
They will follow my
laws and be careful to keep my decrees.
They will live in
the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived.
They and their children and their children's children will live there
forever , and David my servant will be their prince forever
I will make a covenant
of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.
I will establish them
and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them
forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
Then the nations will
know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among
them forever.' "
has a feel to it that suggests this is not merely about coming back
has a much longer feel to it, a larger feel to it NB. ‘Forever' -
this the redeemed people of God, Jew AND Gentile with Jesus as their
The Miracle of the Return from Exile
years after the destruction, various amazing things happened:
“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the
word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus
king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to
put it in writing: "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: `The
LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth
and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in
Judah. Anyone of his people among you--may the LORD his God be with
him, and let him go up.'”
was repeated in Ezra 1:1-4 except the last part is extended:
Anyone of his people among you--may his God be with him,
and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the
LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. And the people
of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him
with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill
offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem .' "
the first priority was to rebuild the Temple, the dwelling place of
God, the place indicating the presence of God.
whole company numbered 42,360, besides their 7,337 menservants and
maidservants; and they also had 200 men and women singers. They had
736 horses, 245 mules, 67 435 camels and 6,720 donkeys…… The priests,
the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants
settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and
the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns
Temple is Rebuilt
reality was that there was really nothing left of Jerusalem in which
suggest the work of rebuilding the temple
on Sept. 21, 520BC (Ezra 3:8) and
on Mar. 12, 516BC (Ezra 6:15)
approx three and a half years building.
is eventually Rebuilt
was March-April, 445 BC before Nehemiah
approached King Artaxerxes with plans to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem
appears it was completed by Oct 445 BC (Neh 6:15)
record says it took 55 days to complete but Josephus states in Antiquities,
that the rebuilding of the wall took two years and four months
which may include ancillary works.
last clear dates in the Old Testament were Nehemiah's first term as
governor (Neh 5:14) from Apr. 1, 433 BC, to Apr. 19, 432, a 12 year
period before being recalled to court (Neh 13:6), after which he returned
to Jerusalem (Neh 13:7) for a second term whose length cannot be determined.
Nevertheless it is clear that Israel had been returned to the Land,
had rebuilt the temple and then later Jerusalem itself but were throughout
that time settled in the Land. There they remained until we find them
under Roman rule at the beginning of the New Testament.
A Quick Glance at Daniel
we have observed above, was taken by Nebuchadnezzar's first attack
on Jerusalem in 605BC
operated in the palace in Babylon, it would appear, through the reigns
(Dan 1-4) – 605BC to 562BC
(not mentioned in Daniel but see 2King 25: 27/ Jer 52: 31, otherwise
known as Amel-Marduk) – 562BC to 560BC
(also not mentioned in Daniel) – 560BC to 556BC
(ditto) – 556
(ditto) – 556 to 539
(Dan 5 – co-regent with Nabonidus,
part of time up to – 539BC
the Mede (Dan 5 & 6) otherwise
known as Cyrus (see footnote 6:28) – 539BC to 530BC
book was probably started about 606BC and completed somewhere about
530 BC, some time after the capture of Babylon by Cyrus in 539. i.e.
Daniel was in the palace (or its precincts) for some 65 years or so!
we assume the book records his influence in the Babylonian and then
Persian empires, this explains the mention of only Nebuchadnezzar,
Belshazzar (who really only gets a death sentence) and Cyrus.
1-4 record his influence on Nebuchadnezzar who ended
up (probably) near the end of his reign worshipping the Lord after
a seven month period of madness.
a result of his time in the lion's den (Chapter 6) Daniel's influence
on Cyrus was clearly very great with him issuing
an edict to his kingdom to worship the Lord (see Dan 6:25-27)
using the dates above, Cyrus took over in 539BC
and the Temple rebuilding started in 537 i.e. 2 years
later, during which Daniel was still a trusted courtier in the royal
household. It may be quite reasonable to suggest
that Daniel was the one having influence with Cyrus and opened the
way up for the temple rebuilding to be decreed by Cyrus. Daniel
would also have known of Isaiah's prophecies identifying the ‘Cyrus'
years before, with such accurate prophecies that must be way beyond
who says of Cyrus, `He is my shepherd and will accomplish all
that I please; he will say of Jerusalem , "Let it be rebuilt,"
and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid." '
will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways
straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not
for a price or reward, says the LORD Almighty."
these things together may have been used to bring about that which
was then recorded:
Chron 36:22 In
the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word
of the LORD
spoken by Jeremiah,
the LORD moved
the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout
his realm and to put it in writing….
requirement was for the Temple to be rebuilt and the people to return!
this somewhat prolonged study of the Exile and restoration of Israel
we have noted:
The Facts of the Exile
final exile came about after three invasions by Nebuchadnezzar, 605,
597 and 588/7, each time taking some exiles back with him to Babylon
until finally destroying Jerusalem and clearing the land in 587BC.
was eventually to terminate the southern kingdom.
only came about after approx. forty years of Jeremiah's warnings.
meant the land being virtually entirely cleared of people.
The Reasons for the Exile
were spelled out by both Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
it was long-term, entrenched apostasy – a turning away from God to
idol worship and a decline in the general moral state of the nation
so that corruption, injustice and violence prevailed – that refused
to change despite the many words of God coming through His prophets.
The Outworking of the Exile
renewal and restoration of a faithful remnant that would be brought
back from exile was prophesied by both Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
occurred after forty years when King Cyrus, possibly led to the Lord
by Daniel, decreed that the people could return and rebuild the Temple.
forty two thousand people returned in the first group.
Temple was completed almost exactly seventy years after it had been
destroyed, as basically prophesied by Jeremiah.
Jerusalem was rebuilt and reinhabited.
might also note in closing that the ‘mechanics' of the Exile involved
main prophets – warning, explaining
and bringing hope – Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
initially ungodly kings – one
bringing about the exile, the other bringing it to an end – Nebuchadnezzar
background prophet, presumably
being used to open up Cyrus – Daniel.
– who decreed it and who
His people were warned again and again with options to avoid it,
a faithful remnant with hopes for the future,
it brought it to completion.
so often happens with the judgment of God, this whole things also
folly and sin of mankind, again and again refusing
to heed the calls of God.
grace and patience of God who gave His people every
opportunity to repent.
perseverance and wisdom of God who, when His people
failed to respond to Him, pressed on with the planned exile and restoration
so that at the end a cleansed nation was the outcome, a nation into
which eventually His Son was able to come, to reveal Him even more.
and bring salvation to the world.
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